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Patrick Springer, Published January 06 2012

Norberg: Wife consented to use of propofol

FARGO – Dr. Jon Norberg issued a detailed statement Friday outlining his defense in administering a powerful anesthetic drug to his wife, a fellow physician he was accused of raping while drugged.

The sedative pain-relief drug treatments, administered at their home to treat symptoms and anxiety from Dr. Alonna Knorr Norberg’s autoimmune disease, were the basis of the indefinite suspension of his medical license this week and a criminal case in which he struck a plea deal resulting in a felony conviction for reckless endangerment.

Although characterizing the decision as a well-intentioned mistake, Jon Norberg claims he gave his wife multiple injections of the drug propofol with her knowledge and consent as both sought to treat health problems he said caused her to become disabled and dependent on narcotics.

“We had both administered propofol to patients in our medical careers,” he said. “We were both trained on propofol, and we were experienced and comfortable with its use. Based on our review of medical articles, our training with the medication as doctors, and her personal experience as a patient, we decided to try propofol.”

That statement contradicts a statement issued Thursday by Alonna Norberg, the day Jon Norberg’s medical license was indefinitely suspended. Norberg would not answer questions from reporters after reading his statement out loud in his lawyer’s office or provide copies of any of the supporting documents he claims to possess.

In a statement provided by her divorce attorney Thursday, Alonna Norberg told The Forum that her husband inappropriately gave her the drug without her consent “to impair me and gratify himself sexually.” She said he shouldn’t have characterized propofol as a “good” and “safe” drug, as it is not when used in a home instead of a hospital.

Jon Norberg denies that he gave the drug to have involuntary sexual contact with his wife and said the drugs were given strictly for medical use.

He entered no-contest pleas Tuesday to misdemeanor sexual assault and felony reckless endangerment, but he maintains he didn’t sexually abuse his wife under sedation. He had initially been charged with gross sexual imposition, a felony, but in a plea deal, prosecutor dropped that charge to a misdemeanor.

“Contrary to her claim now that she never consented, documents in my possession show that she ordered the special needles and tubing required to use the propofol,” Jon Norberg said. “She admitted to others that she willingly participated in the use of the propofol. We were very careful; she was never unconscious; and she never went ‘deeper’ than light sedation.”

Reached by phone Friday night, Alonna Norberg said she had only heard portions of her estranged husband’s remarks and didn’t want to respond to the allegations without consulting with her attorney. She said she could not bear to watch much of a TV report she did catch.

“I just think, ‘Why are you doing this?’ ” she said. “It’s just big lies.”

Her lawyer did not respond Friday afternoon to The Forum’s requests by telephone and email for a response to the statement.

His wife’s allegations of sexual abuse came soon after he informed her that he would seek a divorce and custody of their three children, based on what he said were her “psychiatric condition and drug dependency,” after he reluctantly concluded that the marriage was no longer viable, Norberg alleged Friday.

Also, Norberg said his wife had expertise in treating sexual and physical abuse – knowledge, he claims, that enabled her to twist the narrative of their joint search for medical solutions into a tale of his sexual abuse in order to get custody of their children.

He said they were both involved in the founding of the Red River Children’s Advocacy Center in Fargo, a center for the investigation and treatment of child abuse, including sex abuse.

“Unfortunately,” Norberg said in his statement, “this work affected her profoundly and resulted in certain psychiatric problems and uncontrollable compulsive behaviors.

“Based on her prior experience as a sexual assault expert in criminal cases, she knew that by alleging drug-facilitated sexual assault, she could prevent me from having any custody of the children until the criminal charges and allegations of sexual abuse were resolved. I have been limited to supervised visitation of my children for over six months.”

His voice cracking at times with emotion, Norberg also praised his wife but said she was transformed into a different person by an illness that defied a cure despite numerous medical evaluations, including at the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic. He said they tried more than 30 medications, chiropractic care, nutrition therapy, acupuncture, bio feedback, faith healing and psychological counseling.

“My wife, Dr. Alonna Norberg, was a wonderful physician with a great heart and tons of charisma and infectious enthusiasm,” he said. “She was a champion for children.”

But, he added, “she ultimately ended up going to a rehabilitation hospital for narcotic dependency and to learn non-pharmacologic ways to treat her pain.”

Initially the rehab was successful, but later the pain, anxiety and depression caused her to once again abuse narcotics, Norberg said.

“She was no longer the beautiful person I married,” he said.

“When people ask me why I did what I did, I ask them this question,” Norberg said. “If you had something that was the most precious thing to you in the world and it fell in the fire, wouldn’t you put your hand in the fire to try to save it even though you knew you might get burned?”

Norberg said he felt compelled to issue Friday’s statement because he felt he owed an explanation to those who have “supported me unwaveringly through this difficult time.”

He added: “I have let down my children, family, friends, patients and colleagues. I hope that over time I can rebuild your trust and faith in me.”

Forum news editor Dave Roepke contributed to this report.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522